What Is a Coupe Car?

Rebecca Lindland | Mar 23, 2020

Cars come in all shapes and sizes: coupe, sedan, two-, three-, four- and five-door. But how do you decide? How do you compare cars? What’s the difference between a sedan and a coupe car? We’re here to help you understand and appreciate the different types of cars out there.

2020 Ford Mustang coupe

What Is the Difference Between a Sedan and a Coupe?

Sedans are the most popular type of car body style, with a three-box side profile and four doors. Classic sedans include the Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord, and Toyota Camry. Sedans fit four to five people in two rows and usually have a decent-size trunk for luggage, ideal for smaller households. With good aerodynamics and a lighter weight than an SUV, sedans appeal to those concerned with fuel economy and a lower price.

While four-door sedans reign supreme in popularity and practicality, the coupe is a sportier sibling, sometimes with just as much practical cargo room. A coupe has two doors with a trunk or a hatchback. The roof can be a hardtop or convertible. Some coupes seat only two people, but others have room for up to five. Coupe cars come in a wide range of sizes and price points, spanning the smallest vehicles like the Mazda MX-5 Miata to the grand Rolls-Royce Wraith Coupe, and numerous examples in between.

Coupe rooflines are often dramatic, with a pronounced slope to the profile, particularly in the back, lending itself to a tapered finish. Interior headroom is sometimes compromised as a result, especially for passengers designated for the back seat. Coupes are best suited for buyers seeking a sporty look and feel, with minimal worry for back seat passengers.

Types of Coupe Cars

Two-door, two-passenger coupes are often performance-oriented vehicles such as the Audi TT, Porsche 911 and aforementioned Mazda Miata. Some two-passenger coupes have a mid-engine layout with the powerplant behind the passengers, like the 2020 Acura NSX and redesigned 2020 Chevrolet Corvette. These coupes often have storage in the front of the vehicle, with a second trunk area in the rear. The all-new Corvette actually has quite a bit of cargo capacity, with room for multiple pieces of luggage in the front and two golf bags in the back. As a result, it’s a surprisingly good choice for a couple’s weekend getaway and livening up a routine commute.

If more room is desired, two-door, four- or five-passenger coupes maintain that performance orientation with even more practical usage. Less practical examples include the Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, and Lexus RC. More practical coupes include the Audi A5, BMW 4 Series, Dodge Challenger, and Honda Civic coupe. A two-row coupe is a good choice if you mostly drive solo or with one other person and only on rare occasions carry more people.

Accessing the backseat in a two-row coupe is often a challenge, sometimes requiring an awkward step in, a head tuck, and a full body twist, with a similarly awkward ballet required for exiting. Ease of entry and exit is definitely something to keep in mind when thinking about your usual passengers. Even when it provides room for five, a two-door coupe is not an ideal family or carpooling vehicle but is better for a daily driver or for weekend wanderings on winding roads.

Two-door body styles are not limited to cars, with an array of SUVs over the years sporting two doors, although the distinctive low-slung roof lines of a coupe are often lost in the translation. The most popular two-door SUV is the Jeep Wrangler, in continuous production since the 1940s. More recent entries include the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque hardtop and convertible and the short-lived Nissan Murano Cross Cabriolet.

Over the last decade or so, marketers stretched the definition of a coupe to include low-slung four-door sedans such as the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, Mercedes-Benz CLS and Audi A7. These four-door cars have long, low lines and both the BMW and Audi cleverly hide a useful hatchback. But despite their sporty, low-slung profiles, purists insist these vehicles are sedans, not coupes, as long as the doors number four instead of two.

Muscular four-door SUVs, often with long descriptive names as if to clarify what the heck this vehicle is, are also part of this conversation. These SUV coupes started with the 2009 BMW X6 and now include many other examples like the Porsche Cayenne Coupe and Mercedes GLE Coupe. Toyota also ventured into this space with the C-HR, a compact crossover with funky door handles and a sharply sloping rear roofline.

It’s clear there’s a wide range of coupe cars and SUVs in the market. When shopping for a two-door coupe, keep in mind ease of rear-seat access, headroom, and cargo space. And remember that 4-door coupes and coupe SUVs are also available for when you want to blend sporty styling with added practicality.

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